Best known for being the location of the annual rowing regatta, the riverside town of Henley-on-Thames is about as picturesque a location as you are likely to get. With its regular markets, iconic five-arched bridge and traditional architecture, the town is popular with tourists.
In this guide, we give you a detailed look at the town of Henley-on-Thames including information on transport, house prices and schools plus our recommendations for the best things to do in the area.
Henley-on-Thames: A Snapshot
Henley-on-Thames occupies a great position on the river and hosts the annual Henley Royal Regatta, one of the most important events of the traditional ‘English Social Season’. Other events that form part of this select set include Royal Ascot, Cowes Week and the Wimbledon Championships.
The town was first recorded in 1179 when King Henry II purchased the land. A charter for the market was apparently granted by King John and, latterly, given a further Royal seal of approval by Henry VI. The town was considered a ‘hamlet with a chapel’ for many years and although the population grew during the 12th and 13th century, Henley lost 60% of its residents during the Black Death pandemic of the 14th century.
It wasn’t until the early part of the 16th century that development began to extend along the lines we would recognise today and it was finally, in 1568, that Henley-on-Thames was granted a town charter (originally issued by Elizabeth I but replaced by one issued by George I).
The town grew steadily in numbers and reputation, earning itself an important role in the supply chains to London, providing essential timber and grain during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The bridge which spans the Thames which, unfortunately, provides a bit of pinch point for traffic coming in and out of the town, was built in 1786 and has recently undergone a major repair after being damaged by a boat in 2011.
Henley-on-Thames is littered with architectural gems including many properties dating back over 400 years to the Elizabethan times. However, it is the Old Bell pub in the centre of the town that takes the title for the oldest building and is believed to have been built in 1325.
Other notable buildings in the area include Fawley Court, by Christopher Wren with landscaping by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. The renowned Henley Business School now occupies the country house of Greenlands and is one of only 70 or so institutions worldwide that holds triple accreditation and is ranked by the FT as being one of the top 50 schools of its kind in the world.
Henley is also known for being home to the famous Brakspear brewery which, although the facilities have now moved to Witney, still has offices in the town. The associations with real ale continue and the town actually has a couple of microbreweries (see below).
Famous residents of the town include the actor Russell Brand, Richard Curtis, singer Lee Ryan and TV presenter Philip Schofield. Orlando Bloom is also reported to have property in the town of Henley-on-Thames.
Former notable residents include Michael Palin, George Orwell, former Beatle, George Harrison and Sir William Hamilton. The ashes of singer, Dusty Springfield were scattered in Henley-on-Thames and there is a gravesite and market in the grounds of St Mary the Virgin parish church.
Henley-on-Thames: The Detail
Henley-on-Thames occupies a near tripoint position close to the boundaries of Berkshire, and Buckinghamshire but sitting in Oxfordshire. The town is just seven miles to the west of Maidenhead, nine miles to the northeast of Reading and 23 miles southeast of Oxford.
Just ten miles and a twenty minute drive to junction 4 of the M40 and a similar distance to junction 8/9 of the M4, Henley-on-Thames has a reputation for being within great striking distance of two main commuter links to London. In addition, the Henley-on-Thames mainline train station has regular trains to Reading which offers express routes in to London Paddington and other routes to London Waterloo via Wokingham, Bracknell, Staines and Richmond.
Demographics and Stats of Henley-on-Thames
Formerly a part of the Wokingham borough but now under the South Oxfordshire district, the town has a population of around 12,000 people (11,619 at the 2011 census).
At the time of the census:
- 5% of the population were aged 0 to 15.
- 8% of the population were aged 65 and over; the national average was 16.3%.
- 8% of the population were of an ethnic minority.
- 06% of the population were in a same-sex civil partnership.
- 72% of the adult population were economically active (vs 70% as a national average).
- 9% of the adult population were unemployed.
- 44% of people over the age of 16 had a degree of equivalent (vs 27% as a national average).
- 41% of the adult population were employed in professional or associate professional and technical occupations (vs 30% nationally).
With the exception of Wallingford and Didcot, Henley-on-Thames was the most densely populated town in South Oxfordshire with 20.82 people per hectare vs 3.32 (Goring), 10.34 (Sonning Common) and 9.12 (Thame).
Henley has several primary schools, nurseries and specialist educational facilities including a Montessori school, a performing arts school and a music school. The town is also served by a secondary school, Gillots.
There are also some independent schools:
- Shiplake College offering private education for students aged 11-18 (boys) and 16-18 (girls).
- Rupert House School providing preparatory education for boys and girls aged 3 to 11.
Our best picks for…
…some craft beer.
Lovibonds has been creating award-winning American style craft beer for the last 14 years. Situated behind 19-21 Market Place, their tasting rooms are open Friday evenings as well as during the day on Saturday and Sundays. There are some great events held in this cosy space including impromptu barbecues when the weather is good as well as live music. It’s a nice spot to cool off your heels and their beers are world-beating.
…getting some ‘wind in your willows’.
The River and Rowing Boat Museum situated at Mill Meadows is ideally located to explore the Thames Path and take in the beauty of being beside the river. It is home to some great permanent galleries which celebrate life on the waterways including a nod to both the international sport of rowing as well as to Kenneth Grahame’s much loved characters from the Wind in the Willows, Mr. Toad, Ratty and Badger. It’s a great place to take the kids and Mill Meadows is a lovely spot for a picnic with a great playground, café and, of course, somewhere to hire a rowing boat.
…some vintage retail therapy.
Whilst Henley-on-Thames has a selection of modern shops including Monsoon, White Stuff and M&Co, there are lots of great independent shops that are worth the visit. Three that spring to mind that you have to go to if you have never been are:
- Asquiths World Famous Teddy Bear Shop – selling Steiff bears and traditional Teddies, this shop will bring out the inner child of any grown-up. It’s a brave man who takes his children or grandchildren and expects to come away without opening his wallet….
- Jonkers Rare Books – even for the non-bibliophile, this is a real delight to experience and is far more like a museum than a second-hand book shop. Featuring some exceptionally rare titles, first editions and autographed copies of much loved texts, a trip to Jonkers can make you feel as though you have just stepped into a fantasy film like Neverending Story.
- Tudor House Antiques – situated in a delightfully charming black and white cottage on Duke Street, this shop doesn’t have the pomp and ceremony of the usual antiques centres. Instead, this is a place stacked floor to ceiling with the weird and the wonderful, it is an emporium of vintage and retro. The prices here aren’t bad and you can always find something quirky as a gift.
Oh, and finally, the charity shops in Henley-on-Thames all deserve a mention as their stocks are generally very up-market and discerning. Think dress exchange rather than a jumble sale and you might be surprised by some of the labels being turned up here.
Housing in Henley-on-Thames
In 2016, the Lloyds Bank concluded that Henley-on-Thames was the second most expensive market town in the UK with an average house price of £748,001. As of May 2019, the average house price in the area has risen to £887,163. Data from Zoopla suggests that the current prices are average for flats and terraced homes in Henley-on-Thames being £448,856 and £606,819 respectively.
Though the town itself has an obvious affluence, there are pockets of properties in the area that can offer some great value for money.
Property Assistant in Henley-on-Thames
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If you are looking for a new home in Henley or are looking to sell your property in this area then get in touch with us today to find out why we, and our customers, see things differently.